Sleepaway Camp Memories From A-Z

For millions of former campers, the warm weather triggers memories of summers spent at sleepaway camp. Its been 13 years since I went to camp and I still have vivid dreams about singing alma maters around a campfire and watching Princess Bride on rainy days.

Regardless of what camp you attended, many sleepaway camp things are universal. Most former campers would agree that no meal is complete without chanting songs in between bites and the only way to cheer on a basketball team is to paint your face and dress in silly outfits, camp colors of course.


Although camp is behind us, the memories remain. I am so grateful for my 12 summers at Camp Wah-Nee.

Sleepaway Camp Memories From A-Z:

Alma Maters

Camp girls are bonded by alma maters. Whether you wrote them, taught them or were tortured having to learn them, alma maters are the cornerstone of camp memories for many former campers. 


The wood smell, the tiny cubbies, the dirty showers and the spider sightings...what's not to love? 

Color War

Being a General in Color War may be the highest position you will ever hold in your life. Making decisions for 200 kids is incredibly powerful. It is okay if those are still your glory days.

Dining Hall (Mess Hall, for some)

Chicken nuggets, bug juice and fudgsicles. More than the food, the dining hall was where we cheered, bonded and stared at the older cute boys.

Eating Easy Cheese & Cup O' Noodle

Ok so maybe you sometimes still eat these items in hiding, but in camp easy cheese out of the can was acceptable, even encouraged.



In camp, you learn how to be a friend. You can't run away from that girl you don't like; she is in your bunk! By the end of the summer, that girl you hated is the one you are most sad to leave. Camp friends are the best friends. 


The gym is the home of basketball tournaments, talent shows, co-ed dances, Friday night services and other camp events.

In my camp the gym was cozy, 70's style decor and falling apart. It was perfect.

Handwritten Letters

  • Camp is ______.
  • My bunkmates are _______. 
  • My favorite activity is _________.

Indigo Girls

Indigo Girls, James Taylor, Billy Joel, Salt-N-Pepa. Camp is where you learned lyrics to songs and sang them all summer. It is where your counselors introduced you to the coolest music.

Jacks tournaments

What else is there to do on a rainy day in camp? If the choices are Jacks or wet dodgeball, I choose jacks.


Knackers is what we called the foreign counselors from the BUNAC program. Counselors from England, Australia, and other countries would come work at camp for the summer. They were awesome and energetic and kind of crazy.


The dreaded lake. Each summer, my friends would move up swim levels and I would stay in the beginner level. Eventually, I was 16 years old in a swim group with 9 year olds. I hated swimming, but double period boating on a hot day was perfect for tanning. 

Money for Canteen

At the beginning of the summer, we would get a canteen packet of “money.” It was paper which our parents paid for in advance and we would trade it for snacks.

We were allowed canteen once a day until we become teenagers. Frozen snickers...I miss you.

No Technology

I didn’t know it at the time, but going to camp before cell phones was a gift. Being disconnected from the rest of the world for 8 weeks, I can’t think of anything better (except maybe not taking the swim test).

Opening Packages

I am pretty sure people who got packages felt special. I was not one of them.

Plate Stacking

Stacking plates is dining hall etiquette 101. 

Quiet Meals

During Color War, we had quiet meals. There was no talking, only hand gestures. if you spoke, your team lost points. Not a bad idea to try with young kids at home.

Reveille & Taps

I never understood why military songs were played at camps, but the sounds of those trumpets stirs up so many memories: raising the flag while standing on dewy glass and the smell of puffy french toast for breakfast in the dining hall.

Square Dancing

“Alamand Thar, gents back up you got a star, guys are back and girls are forward forward forward”

Every summer, my camp had square dancing for a weekend where we would pair up and form a square of 8. We would practice all weekend for competition at the end. This was no joke; it was super competitive. I may consider myself a semi-professional square dancer...for a Jewish girl from Long Island.

Talent Shows 

Who doesn't love a camp talent show? Things that were acceptable in camp talent shows would not be acceptable anywhere else and that is why I love them.

Urban Legends

Every camp has their own urban legends. Cropsey? Man in the white Hat? What was your camp urban legend?


There is nothing more exciting than the days leading up to camp. We had a countdown...did you? 


Cotton shorts and tank tops everyday? Yes, please. In camp comfort was key, except for fancy events, like a co-ed dance. Then of course you would put on crop tops and sequenced skirts like you were going to a club in Manhattan.


I miss feeling youthful, spirited and full of life. Camp brings that out in us. 


1 hour of uninterrupted time to rest. I bet many parents would pay money for rest hour.

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